Billy Butler’s career with the Royals will last at least another series.
But if these are his final games wearing blue, he’s on his way to making them eventful.
Butler collected a pair of singles and two RBIs in four at-bats on Tuesday. He got the Royals going in the first, and delivered a huge hit in the team’s three-run eighth inning.
After that hit, Butler was lifted for a pinch runner, and watched the rest of the Royals’ 9-8 victory over the Oakland A’s in the American League Wild Card Game from the dugout.
He also was involved in the game’s most bizarre play.
After a first-inning single that drove in Nori Aoki for the Royals’ first run, Butler misread a play that cost the team the final out in the inning.
After Jon Lester got a second strike on Alex Gordon, Butler started walking toward second base. Not running, is if to steal, walking, as if to ... well, walk.
He had looked at first base coach Rusty Kuntz before strolling, and if it seemed as if the Royals had a play on ... they did.
But things went wrong.
“Well, that play broke down on both ends,” Royals manager Ned Yost said in a dugout interview on TBS. “Billy left too soon.”
The idea was to let Lester make the pitch, then take off for second. Eric Hosmer was at third and the Royals would attempt a delayed double steal with Hosmer breaking for home upon Geovany Soto’s throw to second. Butler, apparently was never supposed to reach second.
The Royals went into the game wanting to make things happening in the running game, and perhaps that had its origin in a scout report.
A week earlier, the Angels’ Erick Aybar scored from third when teammate Efren Navarro was caught between first and second on a double steal with Soto catching.
“We had to find other ways to score some runs,” Yost said.
Butler left too soon. Lester threw to first, and the rundown commenced. Hosmer didn’t get a good jump. But his only option was to make a dash for home. He did and was tossed out by plenty.
After the inning, Butler could be seen talking to Kuntz in the dugout, and Kuntz had a conversation with Yost.
The Royals face a decision on Butler’s contract and must decide whether to pick up a $12.5 million team option.
Butler is the longest tenured of the current Royals, having appeared in 1,166 regular season games, which ranks eighth in team history.
He’s been one of the team’s best hitters in that time, but his 2014 numbers stand at full-season career lows in average (.271), home runs (nine), RBI (66), on-base percentage (.323) and slugging percentage (.379).
He rode the bench for some games in early September while fighting a slump, but got hot late, hitting .400 over the final eight games as the Royals were chasing a playoff spot.
Butler had repeated his desire to remain in Kansas City several times and before the game he spoke to his long history with the organization.
“This fan base is amazing,” he said. “They’ve put it a long longer, a lot more pain, than I have. I’ve only been here for a third of the 29 years of the absence of the playoffs, and it feels like an eternity.
“I can only imagine the excitement of the fan base.”